Suicide door

Suicide door

A suicide door is a car door that is hinged on the edge closer to the rear of the vehicle, known as the trailing edge. [] , Suicide door definition.] [] , Suicide doors on Diseno-Art.] [] , Suicide doors simply explained on Everything2.] [] , Don't Call Them Suicide Doors.] These doors are rarely used on vehicles because of their numerous problems.

Origins of the name

The name reflects the increased danger of the door falling open if it becomes unlatched while the car is moving.Alice, Matthew (2002-03-21). " [ - Suicide Doors] ". URL accessed March 26, 2007] Dead link|date=June 2008 The potential risk is obvious: when driving at speed, the fast moving air around the car creates an area of low pressure, which acts as an outward force on the door, trying to open it. This usually doesn't matter as the latch or lock is keeping the door closed. On a conventional car, if the door becomes unlatched, the fast moving air around the car, which is going in the opposite direction to the car, will force the door closed. Whereas with suicide doors, the fast moving air, again moving opposite to the car, pushes the door open. This can be dangerous if the occupant is not seat-belted.

This problem is greatly increased when driving around a bend. Lateral g-force combined with the low-pressure air moving around the car will fling open an unlatched door, and the occupant will be thrown out if not wearing a seatbelt. In reality, this is very unlikely to happen because the locks and latches for suicide doors are specially built to withstand greater forces than most locks and latches. Most modern cars with rear suicide doors have front doors which overlap the rear doors so the latter can't open unless the front door is open. Another safety device is to use a lock that prevents the rear doors being opened unless the front doors are open, such as is used by Rolls-Royce.

Some erroneously believe that the name stems from the fact that if in an emergency, the user exits the vehicle whilst it is moving, the door will hit them upon exit. [] , Automotive door styles.]

Use of the term

Because of the term's negative connotations, it is avoided in major automobile manufacturers' promotional literature in favour of terms such as "rear-hinged doors", "coach doors" (Rolls-Royce), and "freestyle doors" (Mazda). However, the phrase "suicide doors" is familiar to many English-speakers and is often used openly in the custom-car trade. [ [,0,5887067.story?coll=la-class-autos-highway1 Los Angeles Highway One] , September 15, "Los Angeles Times". No longer available online when checked April 22, 2008.] Dead link|date=June 2008


Suicide doors were not uncommon on cars manufactured in the first half of the 20th century. [] , Suicide doors on Urban Dictionary.] They were especially popular in the gangster era of the 1930's because "It's a lot easier to shove somebody out with the wind holding the door open", Dave Brownell, the former editor of Hemmings Motor News stated. [] , Don't Call Them Suicide Doors page 2.]

Post-World War II examples are almost universally the rear doors of four-door cars. The most well-known use of suicide doors on post-World War II automobiles was the Lincoln Continental sedan from 1961 through 1969, and on the unique Lincoln Continental four-door convertible from 1961 through 1967 (the last four-door convertible built in the United States.) Since the four-door Lincoln convertible did not have a centre "B" pillar, the rear door glass was designed to electrically retract a few inches when the rear doors were opened in order for the weather-stripping to clear the front door glass. This meant that if the battery was dead, the only way out of the back seat was to crawl over the front seat.

Modern Use

For a time, the last true, independently opening suicide doors on a private car were fitted on the Ford Thunderbird four-door sedan from 1967 through 1971. The 1971 model was the last American production automobile to feature rear suicide doors, because after which safety concerns prevented their use. [] , Suicide doors on Auto Brevity.] More recently, rear suicide doors that cannot be opened until the regular front doors are opened have been appearing on a number of vehicles, including extended cab pickup trucks, the Saturn Ion QuadCoupe, and the Mazda RX-8. In 2003, true independent suicide doors reappeared, this time on the new Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Spyker D12 officially presented in 2006 also has suicide doors. The Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe four-seat convertible, based on the 100EX show car also has suicide front doors.

Rear passenger suicide doors had been a constant feature of Hackney carriages, otherwise known as Black Cabs. However, with the replacement of the Austin FX4 by the new TX models suicide doors were replaced with standard hinged doors.


* An advantage of rear-hinged doors is, that it makes entering and exiting the vehicle much easier. This is because the occupant can enter in a natural way; walking forward towards the vehicle, and then turning as they go to sit, and exit by stepping forward out of the vehicle.

* Another advantage of rear-hinged back doors (especially with front-hinged front doors), is that this arrangement makes it easier for a person in the front seat (for example, a chauffeur), to exit the car and reach the handle of the back door to open it for the passenger. Austin FX4 taxi drivers were able to reach the rear door handle through the driver's window without getting out of the vehicle.
* If the door is hit whilst reversing out of a garage the damage will be less. This was the reason the Saab 92 used suicide doors.


Other than the disadvantage that gave this type of door its name, the door arrangement also has other disadvantages, and instills other negative perceptions.

*While the vehicle is parked, such a door could hide an entering or exiting passenger from the view of passing cars. The result of the door being hit by another vehicle would be catastrophic since the door would be slammed shut onto the passenger, [] , Urban Dictionary - see Section 6.] although, it could otherwise spread the force of the colliding vehicle.

*If, in an emergency, the user exits the vehicle whilst it is moving forward, the door will hit them upon exit.

*Another problem presented by conventionally hinged doors in front and suicide doors in the back is a passenger traffic conflict. It is almost impossible for passengers to exit from the front and rear seats simultaneously due to the limited space between the front edge of the rear door and the rear edge of the front door.


Here is a list of a select few cars that use suicide doors, for a more complete list go to "A list of cars with suicide doors."

*Austin FX4 - London black cab.
*Bentley State Limousine
*Citroën 2CV - (early models)
*Citroën Traction Avant
*Fiat 500 (1936-57 approx.)
*Ford F-150 SuperCab (1997-present) - Suicide half doors at the rear
*Ford Thunderbird (1967-1971) - 4-door models
*Goggomobil (1955)
*Jaguar MK4 (1946) - Front door
*Lincoln Continental (1961-1969) - 4-door sedans, (1961-1967) - 4-door convertibles
*Mazda RX-8 (2004 - present) - Suicide half doors at the rear
*MINI [ Clubman] - One rear suicide half-door
*Rolls-Royce Phantom
*Rover P4 - Suicide half doors at the rear
*Saab (92, 93 and 95/96 early models)
*Spyker D12

See also

*List of cars with unusual door designs
*Scissor doors
*Gullwing doors
*Butterfly doors
*Sliding doors
*Canopy door
*Car door

External links

* [ The History of Suicide Doors]
* [ Suicide Doors on NY Times : Don't Call Them Suicide Doors]


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